THEY are arguably the A-League’s fiercest rivals, but Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat has promised to welcome his Newcastle Jets counterpart, Ernie Merrick, before Saturday’s clash at AAMI Park.
The traditional pre-match greeting, or post-match congratulation, has been a recurring issue between the pair that was again highlighted in November when Merrick claimed Muscat “sprinted in the opposite direction” rather than shake his hand after Victory’s 1-0 win.
“I was looking forward to a handshake,” Merrick said at the time. “He's the one that disappeared.”
Muscat said any suggestion that he had intentionally snubbed Merrick after the game was “a lie”, and then produced a counter claim.
“I was also waiting for a handshake prior to the game and there was none, which normally happens when you’re the home team,” he said.
There was a similar clash in April, 2016, when Merrick was coaching Wellington Phoenix against Victory.
Muscat made his professional debut as a 16-year-old under Merrick’s coaching at Sunshine George Cross in 1989.
Fifteen years later, the pair renewed their association to win two A-League championships with Victory.
They have long since fallen out, but on Friday Muscat promised to be an obliging host for his former mentor.
“I’ll acknowledge Ernie before the game like everybody, well, like most people have done to me when we travel away,” Muscat told reporters.
“They come across and [I’ll] acknowledge, as the hosts, the opponents and welcome them, wish them well. I’ll do that tomorrow like I always do.”
Merrick politely declined to comment.